Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate, Anwar Ali: Leaf, Liverpool

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Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate

Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate

Collaboration was the name of the game as Leaf played host to some rather special talent, Getintothis’ Paul Riley finds joy in the unexpected.

A welcome collaboration between Mellowtone and Africa Oyé saw Leaf serving brews and booze to a substantial yet quietly contemplative Sunday evening audience. Beaten Tracks DJs opened the proceedings with a chilled mix of folk and African flavour tunes and all seemed rather well in the world. While this subdued beginning was not what we expected, knowing headliners Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate, it set the scene perfectly for opening act Anwar Ali.

As soon as Ali began to play, the room instantly felt cosier. Performing songs from his native Somalia, his voice is a rich and wonderful baritone – warm, deep and ever so slightly husky. He played an oud, a traditional stringed instrument found throughout the Middle East and North Africa, which has a beautifully percussive, resonant and earthy tone.

After the first song, he was joined onstage by local string wizard Dave Owen, who accompanied Ali on an electric guitar with a clean, trebly and harsh tone. While the guitar would have been too much on its own, when paired with the oud and Ali’s vocals the overall impression was unorthodox but beautiful, a rich and surprisingly enveloping sound that was optimistic and joyful. The differing styles and tones produced a rounded and memorable performance; we hope to see more from this pair in the near future.

This was a night of two parts, and as the changeover began onstage, Beaten Tracks picked up the pace in preparation for Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate. Another act that fuses Western and African influences, Kouyate hails from Guinea while Driscoll is an American based in London.

The last time this writer saw kora played live, it was the father-son duo of Toumani & Sidiki Diabate playing traditional songs from Mali. Tonight saw the West African harp take on a more contemporary role in a set that spanned Afrobeat, Hip-Hop, Funk, Soul, Reggae and more.

Kouyate is quite the virtuoso, with fantastically quick fingers picking out complex and melodic passages while backed up by crisp, tight drums, booming bass and Driscoll’s restrained guitar. A selection of songs from their first and current albums quickly filled the dancefloor. By the end of the show a large part of the audience, from tie-dye to smartly buttoned shirt and chinos, were busting out moves with varying levels of skill and panache.

It was a rather brilliant to see such an incredible assortment of musical styles and influences in just two acts; Africa met the West and the results were very special indeed.

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